Today I am interviewing Steven Brust, author of the new fantasy novel, Good Guys.
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DJ: Hey Steven! Thanks for agreeing to do this interview!
For readers who aren’t familiar with you, could you tell us a little about yourself?
Steven: Coming back to this question after doing the others, no, thank YOU. This turned out to be really fun. And as for me, I’m a Minnesotan; we don’t like to talk about ourselves.
DJ: What is Good Guys about?
Steven: I’ve always loved teams. There’s a term I first heard from Elizabeth Bear: “competence porn,” the pleasure of watching someone do something he or she is skilled at. With a team, there’s the additional pleasure of seeing how they fit together. That’s one reason we all loved “Leverage.” We did all love “Leverage,” right? So Good Guys is about a team whose job it is to investigate, and sometimes deal with, abuses of magic. And of course, they each have different skills.
DJ: Could you briefly tell us a little about your main characters? Do they have any cool quirks or habits, or any reason why readers with sympathize with them? Aka What makes them compelling?
Steven: What makes them compelling to me (I don’t know if they’re compelling to you, of course) is the way their particular skills manifest, and the way in which their personalities are expressed through their skills, and their skills are expressed through their personalities. Did that make sense? Two cooks might be equally good, but their approaches can be very different depending on their character: methodical or exuberant, careful or daring. Sometimes the way someone approaches a craft will be in line with other aspects of personality, other times it will be the opposite. I love playing with that stuff.
But I haven’t answered your question, have I? Donovan is a detective: he was trained by an Uncle who was, for a while, an FBI special agent. One of the most fascinating and least explored skills they teach is observation and memory–ie, being able to walk into a room, look around for a few seconds, walk out, and recite what was in the room. I’m not terribly a fan of the FBI for various reasons, but that skill fascinates me, and that skill, plus a sort anti-authoritarian attitude that kind of clashes with it, is what defines Donovan.
Susan is the muscle of the outfit. She’s a skilled martial artist because skilled martial artists are cool. I mean, they are. Shut up. She works out because she loves working out, and she loves how she feels when she works out, plus she has a competitive streak that make her love to beat people bigger than her (she’s not small, but she’s smaller than many of those she goes up against).
Marci is the sorcerer of the group and she reads papers on higher mathematics for relaxation. She is inclined to be more emotionally expressive than the others, and is working on keeping a romantic relationship together under circumstances that make it very difficult (she works for a secret organization, after all), but all of that vanishes when she involved in her craft–she loses herself in it, and one thing I love in writing is trying to express what is happening inside someone’s head in a moment of extreme danger, or concentration, or activity, and she gives me the opportunity to play with that, for which I would like to thank her.
DJ: What is the world and setting of Good Guys like?
Steven: It takes place in the present day, mostly in the United States with a few parts in Spain.
DJ: What was your favorite part about writing Good Guys?
Steven: The exposition. There’s a note at the beginning thanking my friend Chris “Pokerfox” Wallace for letting me steal an idea from him, because it was something he told me about in a book he’s working on that got me excited. I throw a scene at you, and you don’t know what it means. The next scene explains it, but throws out something else that is unexplained. That next scene explains that, but, well, you get the idea. The reader’s always got a “what does that mean?” question that is one scene away from being answered. This book hit me when Fox told me about that, and it was every bit as much fun to write as I’d thought it would be.
DJ: What do you think readers will be talking about most once they finish it?
Steven: The next book on their “to-read”list.
DJ: Did you have a particular goal when you began writing Good Guys? Was there a particular message or meaning you are hoping to get across when readers finish it? Or is there perhaps a certain theme to the story?
Steven: Oh, I dunno. Maybe? I mean, there are things in there such as “wealth corrupts” and “bureaucracies tend toward the stupid” and “everyone wants to be a good guy,” but none of these are profound, or really argued for–I think we all know those things already, so I’m not trying to convince anyone of them, they’re just assumptions. Maybe there is some exploration of what being a good person means under certain kinds of stressful situations. I guess that’s kind of what I was asking myself as I wrote it, so perhaps some of that exploration came through.
DJ: Now that Good Guys is released, what is next for you?
Steven: I’m working on a collaboration with Skyler White with the working title The Sword of Happenstance that takes place in a fairy-tale world and uses fairy-tale logic to subvert fairy-tale tropes. I’ve also got a long-running series that’s getting down to the end, so I’m going over what I’ve written and taking notes about loose threads in preparation for writing the last few.
DJ: Where can readers find out more about you?
Facebook: Steven Brust
Patreon: Steven Brust
DJ: Thank you so much for taking time out of your day to answer my questions!
Steven: It was fun. Thanks!
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Buy the Book:
Amazon | Barnes & Nobel | Goodreads | Kobo
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Donovan was shot by a cop. For jaywalking, supposedly. Actually, for arguing with a cop while black. Four of the nine shots were lethal–or would have been, if their target had been anybody else. The Foundation picked him up, brought him back, and trained him further. “Lethal” turns out to be a relative term when magic is involved.
When Marci was fifteen, she levitated a paperweight and threw it at a guy she didn’t like. The Foundation scooped her up for training too.
“Hippie chick” Susan got well into her Foundation training before they told her about the magic, but she’s as powerful as Donovan and Marci now.
They can teleport themselves thousands of miles, conjure shields that will stop bullets, and read information from the remnants of spells cast by others days before.
They all work for the secretive Foundation…for minimum wage.
Which is okay, because the Foundation are the good guys. Aren’t they?
About the Author:
I’m the author of thirty-one novels* and one solo record. I’m an enthusiastic amateur drummer, guitarist, banjo player, and poker player.
I’m being published by Tor Books.
The Dragaera mailing list is now officially open for use; go to dragaera.info for more information
I have, as I mentioned above, one solo record, “A Rose For Iconoclastes”.
I have written some of the songs for the Worldbeat band Boiled In Lead, including, particularly, Songs From The Gypsy, which is the recording of a cycle of songs I wrote with ex-BiL guitarist Adam Stemple, which cycle turned into a novel I wrote with Megan Lindholm, one of my favorite writers.
Speaking of favorite writers, I have the honor to be in a writer’s group with Emma Bull, Pamela Dean, Will Shetterly, and the afore-mentioned Adam Stemple, who may never before have been afore-mentioned. You’re welcome.
There’s been some speculation on the Internet about my politics. Without going into great detail, I’ll say that I am a Trotskyist sympathizer; for more information check out the World Socialist Web Site. Enough said.
There’s also been some speculation about the Pre-Joycean Fellowship. The best explanation I can make is that we exist to poke fun at the excesses of modern literature while simultaneously mining it for everything of value. Does that help? I didn’t think so.
“Dream Cafe” is a reference to the title song of a record by Greg Brown, who, along with Dave Van Ronk, is among my favorite songwriter/performers. Check them out if you haven’t.
If there are questions about the books, I probably won’t answer them because I enjoy hearing the speculations. But you never know; there might be something I want to talk about here, like the Cool Stuff Theory of Literature, or something. So ask. I’m at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Cheers. Catch you on the Funway.
*Counting the collaborations and the currently unsold Baron of Magister Valley, but not counting the fanfic novel My Own Kind of Freedom.